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04 FEB 2013

Northern Mali: food and fuel in short supply as stocks looted and traders fail to return

In areas of northern Mali, the price of food and fuel is rocketing as supplies start to dry up after looting following recent military operations, and with traders who have fled the area failing to return amid growing numbers of reports of reprisal attacks, international agency Oxfam warned today.

Many food traders, who are predominantly Arabs or ethnic Tuareg, fled the area as French troops advanced. They were key suppliers of food, fuel and other goods sold in markets across northern Mali. These markets are rapidly running out of stocks of food and fuel – and much of what food was available has been looted. The traders have yet to return and many Arab and Tuareg refugees in neighbouring countries tell Oxfam they fear that they would become subject to reprisal attacks if they do return.

“If traders do not come back soon and flows of food into northern Mali remain as limited as they are now, then it is likely that markets will not be properly stocked and prices will stay high – making it very difficult for people to get enough food to feed their families. These traders are critical for local economies – and these economies have already been enormously weakened by almost a year of crisis.

“This phase of the war may almost be over, but the battle to build peace and stability has only just begun. If people feel that their lives are at risk and that their families are not safe, they will not return to Mali. It’s as simple as that,” said Philippe Conraud, Oxfam’s Country Director in Mali.

Food is already getting scarce in many markets in parts of the Gao region, where communities have been facing shortages since last year’s drought. According to recent assessments by Oxfam, food prices have risen by nearly 20 per cent since foreign military intervention in Mali in January.

Conventional trade routes between northern Mali and the south, Niger and Algeria are severely restricted at the moment.
Oxfam is calling on both Malian and international forces to ensure the security and safety of all Malian people so that communities can put their lives together and the process of peace and reconciliation can begin.

What Oxfam is doing
Oxfam is providing humanitarian assistance in the Gao region of northern Mali, as well as to Malian refugees in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. We are supporting populations in need to have access to basic food, clean water and public health related assistance. Oxfam’s programmes aim at reaching 59,250 beneficiaries in Gao, and over 147,000 refugees and people in host communities in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

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About Oxfam
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.

In northern Mali where insecurity and violence means that access for humanitarian organisations is limited at a time when people are in desperate need of help(Photo:Simon Rawles/Oxfam)